VIRUS OUTBREAK LAS VEGAS

A healthcare worker directs patients in their cars at a drive-thru coronavirus testing site run by the University of Nevada Las Vegas School of Medicine and the Nevada National Guard, Friday, July 10, 2020, in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/John Locher)

LAS VEGAS (AP) — Bars in seven Nevada counties were ordered Friday to once again shut their doors and re-impose limits on restaurants because of the coronavirus.

Gov. Steve Sisolak on Thursday announced that Nevada would join other states in reclosing bars after seeing a spike in new positive cases in recent weeks. Restaurants would also need to close their bar areas.

He said those rules would apply to counties deemed hot spots, including the counties that encompass Las Vegas and Reno. Hours before the directive was set to take effect at midnight Friday, the governor's office released more information and identified the counties that had to close their bars. The counties include: Clark, Elko, Humboldt, Lander, Lyon, Nye and Washoe.

The closures would be in place for at least two weeks and the counties would be monitored based on three different data points related to their testing and rates of positive virus cases, Sisolak's office said.

Additionally, the governor imposed statewide rules limiting dining in restaurants to groups of six people.

The Velveteen Rabbit, a cocktail bar in the Las Vegas Arts District, is among those that will be forced to close.

Co-owners and sisters Christina and Pamela Dylag said they’ve been strict about following rules on masks, sanitizing and social distancing since they reopened in early June, but were not surprised by the new order after hearing other bars and restaurants were not complying. Customers were getting mixed messages and some would get angry when they’d enter their bar and find strict enforcement, the sisters said Friday.

In addition to cleaning and sanitizing, the bar had capped customers to groups of eight and shifted its business from ordering at the bar, where people congregate, to using bartenders are table-side servers.

“Part of the frustration on our end is that we have to close and other restaurants that aren’t complying will be allowed to stay open,” Christina Dylag said. “It doesn’t necessarily seem like that route will alleviate all of the problem.”

Pamela Dylag said she would rather see officials force businesses that weren’t complying to close than to impose a blanket closure order on all bars.

Sisolak's new directive is the second time Nevada has tightened restrictions since the state began reopening, starting with restaurants in May and bars and casinos in early June.

After new positive cases and hospitalization rates rose in recent weeks, the governor imposed a statewide mask mandate starting June 26.

Sisolak said Thursday that COVID-19 "can easily spread when people are congregating for long periods of time, like inside a bar.” He said federal officials have recommended closing bars and urged him specifically Thursday to take swift policy action to prevent the spread of the virus and try to keep the state from seeing hospitals overwhelmed with patients.

Nevada has reported 579 deaths from COVID-19 and nearly 26,000 positive cases. The number of infections is thought to be far higher because many people have not been tested, and studies suggest people can be infected with the virus without feeling sick.

For most people, the new coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks. For some — especially older adults and people with existing health problems — it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia, and death.

In other developments:

—The Clark County School District Board of Trustees has unanimously approved plans to reopen schools under a blended learning model for the fall semester amid virus concerns. The plan, which can still be altered, will go to the Nevada Department of Education for approval, the Las Vegas Sun reported. Educators in the county are scheduled to report to work on Aug. 10, KXNT-TV reported. Students are expected to start Aug. 24., with two days of class conducted in-person and the remaining three days at home. There is also an online-only instruction option.

Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without permission.

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